You will witness famous knife-making companies opting towards using the CPM S35VN steel for the manufacturing of pocket knives that are admired by people for use. Along with companies like Bark River, Benchmade, and Spyderco, Chris Reeve also uses this steel for manufacturing pocket knives. You will get to know all the details below regarding what makes the steel popular for pocket knives.


What is CPM S35VN Steel?


CPM S35VN Steel is designed and formulated by the Crucible knife-making company using the help of their Crucible Particle Metal (CPM) methodology process. The steel is stainless and martensitic because of its chemical composition. The steel is the innovative version of Crucible’s S30V steel, both of these steels belong to the SxxV series of the company.


The formula of CPM S35VN was brought out in 2009. The thought behind S35VN is to create a steel that has a better toughness level without bringing any changes to corrosion resistance compared to their first steel which is CPM S30V. To make this happen, the company added vanadium carbides to blend with niobium carbides in the steel and named it S35VN after the upgrade.


The idea of adding vanadium carbides to the chemical composition was put into reality with help of Chris Reeve who is a well-known knife maker who worked in the manufacturing of S30V as well. The upgraded formula of S35VN has the perfect balance of all the elements that ensure eliminate all weaknesses for the steel to have a perfect performance in all aspects.


As the steel has all the required properties, S35V is used by companies for the manufacturing of EDC knives, tactical knives, speciality cutlery and small machinery parts.


Chemical Composition: 


You can classify S35VN as stainless steel because it has an adequate percentage of chromium. We have listed down other elements and their corresponding properties that help make the steel perfect for use.

  • 1.4% of Carbon: Increases the hardness level of the steel and boosts the steel resistance to corrosion and wear.
  • 14% of Chromium: Boosts the corrosion resistance, edge retention, tensile strength and wear resistance.
  • 3% of Vanadium: Improves hardenability and wear resistance of the steel.
  • 2% of Molybdenum: Increases strength of the steel and machinability.
  • 0.5% of Niobium: Works for increasing hardness level and wear resistance of the steel.


The hardness of the steel: 


According to the Rockwell C scale, S35VN steel has a hardness rating that ranges between 57 to 64 HRC. The hardness rating of the steel can vary depending on the heat treatment provided to the steel by the manufacturer. The hardness rating indicates that the steel has an extreme hardness that ensures the excellency of the steel in terms of durability and regular use for tackling tough conditions.


The extreme hardness level of the S35VN steel is because of the presence of elements like molybdenum, niobium, and vanadium. The composition consists of niobium carbides which are super hard compared to vanadium carbides.


Steel Properties: 

  • Decent Toughness: You will not expect steels that have a high hardness level to have the right amount of toughness. But S35VN steel exceeds expectations and has the right amount of toughness because of the fine niobium carbides in its chemical composition. The toughness level is improved to a better extent with the CPM process. Because of proper toughness, the steel will not break, chip or crack because of impact.
  • Good Corrosion Resistance: The chemical composition of the steel has a high percentage of chromium that makes S35VN stainless. Blades made out of steel will not get stained or rust even if it comes in contact with saltwater. Yet, it is essential to keep moisture away for proper maintenance of the steel by drying it after cleaning.
  • Excellent Edge Retention: Blades made out of the S35VN steel have the capacity of holding their edge for a long time. The great edge retention capability is because of the high percentage of niobium and vanadium in the content.
  • Great Wear Resistance: The high hardness level of S35VN dictates the reason behind great wear resistance. The chemical composition of S35VN has carbides of molybdenum, niobium and vanadium.
  • Ease of Sharpening: Due to the extreme hardness level of the steel it is difficult to sharpen yet nothing impossible. You can easily give the edge razor sharpness but you will require expensive sharpeners.


Comparing CPM S35VN steel with Other Knife Steel Options: 


CPM S35VN vs M390 

M390 does not have popularity like S35VN yet it shows better performance in many steel properties including edge retention. The only issue with M390 is that it is difficult to sharpen compared to S35VN.


CPM S35VN vs VG10 

Both of these steels show the same performance in terms of corrosion resistance. But S35VN steel beats VG10 in terms of edge retention and toughness level.


CPM S35VN vs D2

S35VN steel wins over D2 as it has better performance in terms of corrosion resistance and edge retention. Both of the steels have the same type of toughness level but it is easier to sharpen S35VN compared to D2.


CPM S35VN vs S90V

S35VN is innovative steel that beats S90V in corrosion resistance, ease of sharpening and toughness level by having a better chemical composition. However, S35VN falls weak in edge retention in front of S90V.




CPM S35VN vs S110V

Both of the steels show great performance in all the steel aspects but they do have certain differences. S110V steel has a high hardness level, better wear resistance and edge retention compared to S35VN. S35VN is much easier to sharpen and has a greater toughness level compared to S35VN.


CPM S35VN vs Elmax

Both of these steels are premium grade steels but Elmax beats S35VN in edge retention, ease of sharpening, hardness level and wear resistance.


CPM S35VN vs S30V

Both of these steels have similar chemical compositions stating that they perform similarly in the case of all steel properties. But the S35VN is tougher than the S30V.


So, is CPM S35VN a Good Knife Steel?

Yes, undoubtedly you can consider S35VN steel as a great option for the manufacturing of premium-grade knives. The steel can withhold all the required properties for the making of a knife blade which includes great edge retention, wear resistance and high toughness level.


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